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The Lead July 13, 2022: It's a Star Party with a Kerr County expert in astronomy

Schreiner University's Kim Arvidsson will explain to us all about the stunning photos from the Webb Space Observatory.

Good morning, Kerr County!

As we are writing today's newsletter, it's hard not to enjoy a little bit of a cooler evening thanks to thunderstorms that passed to the west of Kerrville on Tuesday. However, we're set for another hot one today, with a high of 100 degrees. The National Weather Service says there is a 10% chance of rain later today. We could see some thunderstorm action on Thursday, but that's about a 20% chance.

On today's The Lead Live!

Who checked out the photos from NASA's new James Webb Space Telescope? We did! NASA released stunning images of distant galaxies on Tuesday. Those images dominated social media all day. Our guest today is Schreiner University's Kim Arvidsson, who heads up the astronomy department. If you haven't experienced one of Arvidsson's lectures or presentations, you will be in for a treat today! Join us at 9 a.m.


Here are some of the events headed our way today and Thursday


Family events

  • Animal Tails and Tales with Kim Lehman — Cailloux Theater, 10 a.m., Information: 830-257-8422 The details: Animal Tails & Tales with Kim Lehman — "Fine Furry and Feathered Friends. Join the fun animal storytelling and music. Free event.

Markets and Sales

  • Friends of the Library Book Sale — Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library, 1–3 p.m. Information: The details: Looking for a great read? Or better yet, come down and support the work of Friends of the Library. Maybe find a banned book? That sounds like a fun day to us.
  • Kerr County Produce Market Day — The Big Red Barn, 10 a.m., Information: 830-896-7330 The details: Kerr County Produce Market Day (The Big Red Barn). Local Hill Country wholesale warehouse distributor for the finest fruits and vegetables. Open to the public.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

  • Kerr Arts and Cultural Center Art Exhibits — Kerr Arts Cultural Center, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: 830-895-2911 The details: Through Aug. 13, three different art exhibits. Paintings by LaRue, "Kerrville Fiber Artists," Fiber art show by local artists, "Hometown Crafts Teacher's Show," an exhibition featuring the work of local teachers, sponsored by Hometown Crafts and Gifts.

Science and Nature

  • Nature Nights — Riverside Nature Center, 6 p.m. Information: 830-257-4837 The details: Nature Jeopardy.

Live music

  • Matt Hillyer — Southern Sky Music Cafe, 7 p.m. Information:

Games and fun

  • Thirsty Thursday Game Night — Arcadia Live, 5 p.m. Information:

It's another conversation about short-term rentals

At one point during Tuesday's Kerrville City Council meeting, Councilman Joe Herring Jr. threw his hands up, saying he was frustrated and tired of talking about short-term rentals without a solid policy to manage them.

Short-term rentals continue to be a challenging issue for the City Council, the planning and zoning commission and the city staff. With less than 80 short-term rentals approved in Kerrville, the issue is becoming a crisis as residents begin to oppose their approval.

On Tuesday, the Council approved two short-term rentals, but not before they faced tearful opposition from Eva Ramirez and Karen Sides, who bitterly opposed a short-term rental on Starkey Street last month. The two women used the public hearing to rail against the potential destruction the approval of short-term rentals could do to neighborhoods.

The City Council is working to resolve the issue with a July 25 town hall meeting at the Dietert Center, which could give the city a more concrete idea of managing their approval. After two meetings between the City Council and the P&Z, it was clear there weren't easy ideas to balance the property rights issues.

Sides made it clear she's ready to fight them and said Kerrville will have a chapter of the TX Neighborhood Coalition, a grassroots group that opposes the approval of short-term rentals across the state. Of course, the gold standard of bad short-term rental policy in Texas is up the road in Fredericksburg, where there are an estimated 1,900 short-term rentals.

Herring's frustration rests with those following the currently established rules for conditional-use permits in residential zones and the neighbors who don't want them. Herring said the lack of a more firm policy makes it seem like a land rush into neighborhoods to get short-term rental approval.

However, in the case of homeowner Leslie Garcia, the situation presents the Council with another challenge — what if the short-term rental is part-time. Garcia faced opposition from at least one neighbor in her Donna Kay neighborhood, but she said she intends to still live in the house part-time and rent it out when her family travels. In Austin, that arrangement seems preferable after round-after-round fights, including in the courts, over short-term rentals there.

In other City Council business:

  • The Council unanimously approved spending more than $680,000 to replace body-worn and in-car camera systems for the police department. The funding comes from state and federal grants, including the controversial American Rescue Plan Act.
  • Kerr Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Gil Salinas announced a raft of things but said the magic words: Someone is interested in building a family fun center here. He didn't have details on the project but said there was interest.

News we're following from around the state

The Austin American Statesman got ahold of the hallway video from Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, and then published a five-minute excerpt and an hour-long video that was heavily edited. It was heartbreaking and infuriating to watch. It's also controversial. The parents of the 19 children and relatives of the two teachers murdered were furious about the release. Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin called the move "chicken" and then got slammed for the troubling lack of response from police. Here's a link to the story:

The Austin American Statesman, along with its television partner KVUE, said it chose to publish two versions of the video because of the shifting story about the actions of May 24.

"This tragedy has been further tragic by changing stories, heroic-sounding narratives proven to be false and a delay or in most cases rejection of media requests for public information by law enforcement leaders, public officials and elected leaders," wrote Editor Manny Garcia. "Many of the requests now rest in the hands of Attorney General Ken Paxton's office, who has not yet decided what should be released."

While the published videos were sanitized by muting audio, the devastating lack of response from the numerous police officers drew the most reaction.

Here's a sample of some of the reaction:

See @Mike_Hixenbaugh's post on Twitter.

See @SoberResister's post on Twitter.

See @ChrisMurphyCT's post on Twitter.

We used to think there were no dumb questions

If you ever want to see the declining state of American public service, watch Kerr County Precinct 1 and alleged patriot Harley Belew at work on the commissioners' court. The two-term commissioner asked, perhaps, one of the stupidest questions in recent court history.

During a discussion about why Kerr County law enforcement can't get vehicles replaced by Enterprise Fleet Management, Belew seriously asked Sheriff Larry Leitha this: "Don't they consider us a large client? Are we not one of their large clients?"

Leitha cracked a short smile before saying: "No, no, they've got Laredo and Houston has hundreds and hundreds."

Enterprise Fleet Management is the largest fleet management in the country, handling hundreds of counties, cities and school districts. So, yeah, Kerr County is one of their large clients.

For what it's worth

Precinct 4 Constable Brad Rider initiated the discussion about vehicles because he's still waiting for one. He could get a new Dodge Ram pick-up through Enterprise, but the monthly payment is $1,132 per month — double what the county expected to pay. That paused Kerr County Judge Rob Kelly, who now wants to meet with Enterprise to find out why the prices are so high.

There's bad questions, and then there's just inappropriate

At the June 13 commissioners' court meeting, Precinct 4 Commissioner Don Harris uttered a crass insult about President Joe Biden in a discussion over oil and gas prices.

After a budget amendment called for a $70,000 increase in year-end fuel expenditures for the Kerr County Sheriff's Office, Harris said, "Some might say, "Let's go, Brandon." I move for approval."

While conservative Republicans dominate the court, it's hard to imagine a more inappropriate comment made in the court. The phrase means "Fuck Joe Biden," one chanted by NASCAR fans at a race last year, but an NBC Sports reporter misunderstood the chant, thinking it was "Let's Go Brandon," for Xfinity series driver Brandon Brown, who she was interviewing.

Since then, it's become a regular thing at rallies for former President Trump and among the hard right. Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted it out, and Sen. Ted Cruz posed next to a sign with the slogan. However, neither Abbott nor Cruz expressed it in a place reserved for policy decisions and debate. Another sad moment in the collapse of decorum and thoughtful leadership.


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